Heritage Open Days: The Highlights

It has been a busy week. The annual festival, whereby heritage locations open their doors to the public for free, is an autumnal treat. Having said that, it’s not all about ancient buildings. Last year, with traditions as the theme, I popped into a family-run coffee roaster and this year I enjoyed talking to an artisan cheesemaker (while indulging a little cheese tasting, of course). There were also talks and online events and the festival grows every year. Best of all is the chance to explore places not normally open to the public. New discoveries this year included a backstage tour of The Grange opera house; and the family home of the Viscount of Lymington at Farleigh Wallop; as well as a return visit to the magnificent Winchester College, a firm favourite. The festival closes today but here’s my top five Heritage Open Days spots. If you missed them this past week, add them to your must-visit-soon list.

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This week… books and Breakfast at Tiffany’s

In an attempt to focus on the positive and ‘forget about the worries and the strife’ of the world-at-large (apologies for paraphrasing Baloo, but you get the idea), I find there’s a lot to be grateful for. Okay, so there’s a lot of rubbish going on too but, hey, I’m trying here.

The bright summer days are metamorphosing into autumnal mellowness. The light is softening and early mornings have a slight chill in the air, with dramatic sunsets taking place and noticeably earlier each day. There is the unmistakable, tell-tale earthy smell in the air and on woodland walks the grounds are strewn with acorns and drying leaves. The simple bare necessities.

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Discover a secret garden this summer

This week I’ve been enjoying many horticultural delights courtesy of the National Garden Scheme (NGS). The annual summer event provides the opportunity to mosey around private and public gardens in aid of charity.

The scheme is so quintessentially English, reminiscent of the beloved village fete an atmosphere fostered by the delicious homemade cakes available. Spoilt for choice at one garden, I indulged in a generous portion of walnut cake with a pot of cafetière coffee on a shady patio. Hosts were ultra friendly and there was some lively chat amongst the visitors. I met up with one couple at the next garden too, and we greeted each other like old friends. Gardening tips were swopped and recommendations for further gardens to visit. Aah, an English summer.

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Review: Out Of The Blue at The Arc

In the beginning there was Terence Conran, Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell, Mary Quant, to name but a few of the innovative mid-century designers, and Tricia Guild. The Designers Guild began in 1970 with Guild opening in a small section of a shop in Chelsea’s King’s Road in 1974. It quickly became synonymous with cutting-edge design, the brand a byword for stylish living. The Guild’s fabrics were decidedly covetable and bestowed a certain je ne sais quoi.

Out Of The Blue, exploring the Designers Guild, first debuted at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London in February 2020 and subsequently closed due to the pandemic. The good news is that the exhibition, showcasing several exhibits not previously displayed, opened last week at The Arc in the historic city of Winchester.

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Review: moody blooms by Tricia Guild and photography by James Merrell

Tricia Guild’s new book, moody blooms: designing with nature, is part gardening book, part art catalogue and part interior design manual. The pages explode with colour and present an exploration of the varying forms and energies of different plants as an integral element of a beautifully designed interior. Guild’s designs are influenced by the cyclical life of a twig, leaf or flower from tentative bud to full-blown deliciousness, as well as their melancholic demise. Her work is a blend, a meeting of graphic design and painting, travel influences and structural objects, light and shade.

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Italian Fashion Brand: Max Mara Art Prize For Women

The biannual Max Mara Art Prize for Women makes me wish I was talented artistically. Not only does the winner get to spend time in Reggio Emilia, Catania and Rome, researching classical mythology, but also explore textile craftsmanship, permaculture and the myriad historic sites and institutions. Having minored in Classical Studies at University, six months spent in this way sounds to me like the quintessential gift from the gods.

Emma Talbot is the winner of the 8th Max Mara Prize which began in 2005 and supports UK-based female artists, and specifically those who have not previously had a major solo show. The award presents the opportunity for a fully-funded, bespoke Italian residency, followed by a solo exhibition of a new body of work, both in the UK and Italy.

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A visit to an Extraordinary Doll’s House

Motifs in Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s three-act play, A Doll’s House (premiered 1879), include appearances, the power of money, and women’s place in a patriarchal society. A work of its time, there is a clear divide between those who lived upstairs and the servants living below. Actual doll’s houses, those little microcosms of everyday life, dating back to the 16th century and reflecting similar societal values, were created not as toys but often as a teaching aid, to instruct a future lady of a grand house on the running of the establishment. Think Downton Abbey with its defined rules of behaviour both below and above stairs.

The Uppark doll’s house is one of only a handful that have survived from the 18th-century in amazingly good condition. The little four-poster beds alone are around 300 years old.

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Review. Extraordinary Everyday: The Art & Design of Eric Ravilious and Turn and Return by Dierdre Wood

Maybe it’s the non-stop disturbing news from around the world, or the long dark winter and the recent wild storms (including Storm Eunice which carried a Red Alert warning) but I just haven’t been feeling the love. The year has felt slow in getting started.

This week I visited a new exhibition at The Arc in the historic city of Winchester, to explore the work of Eric Ravilious. It is the first time I have experienced Ravilious’ work up close. A display of stunning woven textiles by weaver, Deirdre Wood outside The Gallery was an added bonus. The intensity of colourful art proved inspirational and I’m back at my laptop with the first blog in a few weeks.

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Paul Joyce exhibition

Review. Paul Joyce: A Life Behind The Lens

What did Paul Joyce, filmmaker, writer, photographer and painter, make of Jane Fonda? Why did Joyce and David Hockney fall out? And which of his photographs did Sophia Loren choose as a personal gift?

Paul Joyce (credits include director and producer of four series of Dr Who, 1981) spent his childhood in Winchester so it seems entirely fitting that a city gallery is hosting an exhibition celebrating his life and work, now in his 80th year. Paul Joyce: A Life Behind the Lens features a selection of well-known faces, as well as photographic landscape works and paintings from the past five decades. Many images are accompanied by some blunt commentary from Joyce.

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Review. Frans Hals: The Male Portrait at the Wallace Museum

A stunning new display of over 12 works by Frans Hals, one of the greatest masters of the Dutch Golden Age, offers a unique perspective on 17th century masculinity and sense of style. In a breakaway from the male gaze upon the female form, Hals fixes his painterly eye upon his male contemporaries. The portraits are displayed against a dark background, with subtle gallery lighting except for spotlights on each painting. It is a sexy, elegant and theatrical setting, and I fell in love with every single one.

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